Friday, April 19, 2024

First coronavirus death in the state reported in James City County. Peninsula residents urged to avoid gatherings of more than 50 people

(WYDaily/Courtesy of Wikemedia Commons)
(WYDaily/Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Virginia Department of Health officials on Saturday reported the first coronavirus death as one from James City County.

The patient, a man in his 70s, acquired COVID-19 through an unknown source. The cause of death was respiratory failure as a result of COVID-19, according to VDH.

The Peninsula Health District has activated its incident management team and is deploying all necessary resources in order to contain this outbreak. Public Health officials are reaching out to all identified contacts of COVID-19 cases.

The district serves Newport News, Poquoson, Williamsburg, James City County and York County — and James City County has the only positive coronavirus cases in the district.

VDH on Saturday reported 10 confirmed cases of coronavirus in James City County.

“PHD has identified a total of 10 cases so far,” said Irene Ferrainolo, PHD’s health manager wrote in an email Saturday night. “We do not reveal the location of these cases other than the city or county in which they reside.”

Ferrainolo said to the best of PHD’s knowledge, all the cases reported in the district so far are in James City County.

The district has been working very closely to identify people who have been in potential contact with people known to have tested positive for coronavirus.  They are interviewing affected people and giving instructions on how to protect themselves and others.

“On behalf of the entire Commonwealth, we express our deepest sympathy for the family and loved ones of the patient who died, as well as the families of everyone who has been affected by this outbreak,” said State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver.

This case was recorded by VDH when it was first identified.

Gov. Ralph Northam said this is a “public health crisis – we must all treat it as such.”

“Pam and I were deeply saddened to learn that a Virginian has died from COVID-19, and we grieve for everyone this virus has touched around the world,” Northam said. Again, I urge Virginians: take this seriously. Take basic health precautions, avoid large gatherings, telework if possible, and stay home if you are sick. That will stop the virus from spreading. It is all of our responsibility, yours and mine, to keep each other safe and healthy.”

Northam will meet with Peninsula Health District officials Sunday.

The governor on Thursday declared a state of emergency and urged all Virginians to avoid large gatherings “for the time being.”

The declaration will allow the state increased flexibility to ease regulatory requirements and procurement rules, continue federal and multi-state coordination, and ensure continued access to critical services for the most vulnerable Virginians. In addition, it has become increasingly clear that states must take a primary leadership role in the national response to COVID-19.

Officials from James City County, Williamsburg, York County, Newport News, Hampton and Poquoson issued a joint statement Saturday night, urging Peninsula residents “to avoid gatherings of more than 50 people. This includes church services, civic/social organization meetings, and public events and festivities.”

“We are a social society and as such, much of our daily lives include social interaction. Those critical needs such as grocery shopping, fueling your vehicle, and other essential tasks should not be neglected,” the joint statement read. “Remember to observe the hygiene steps of washing your hands frequently, sanitizing flat surfaces, and when possible avoid close contact.

Additional steps may be required in the coming hours and days as local officials try to slow the rate of infection thus allowing the local health system the capability to treat those who most need medical care.”

To lower the risk of respiratory germ spread, including COVID-19, the Virginia Department of Health encourages the following effective behaviors:

  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Avoid contact with sick people.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.


John Mangalonzo
John Mangalonzo
John Mangalonzo ( is the managing editor of Local Voice Media’s Virginia papers – WYDaily (Williamsburg), Southside Daily (Virginia Beach) and HNNDaily (Hampton-Newport News). Before coming to Local Voice, John was the senior content editor of The Bellingham Herald, a McClatchy newspaper in Washington state. Previously, he served as city editor/content strategist for USA Today Network newsrooms in St. George and Cedar City, Utah. John started his professional journalism career shortly after graduating from Lyceum of The Philippines University in 1990. As a rookie reporter for a national newspaper in Manila that year, John was assigned to cover four of the most dangerous cities in Metro Manila. Later that year, John was transferred to cover the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines. He spent the latter part of 1990 to early 1992 embedded with troopers in the southern Philippines as they fought with communist rebels and Muslim extremists. His U.S. journalism career includes reporting and editing stints for newspapers and other media outlets in New York City, California, Texas, Iowa, Utah, Colorado and Washington state.

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